Grading the Andrew Miller Trade

Andrew MillerThe Boston Red Sox completed the first of two deals within the AL East, a couple of hours before the trade deadline was complete, with a trade that sent lefty reliever Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.

Miller has been used in key situations all season for the Red Sox in 2014, including becoming the setup reliever in most games. He was 3-5 with a stellar 2.34 ERA this season. He had 69 strikeouts in just 42.1 innings of work. The lefty reliever was a high commodity this trade deadline and the Red Sox got a really solid offer from the Orioles.

The Orioles gave up their No. 3 prospect in the lefty Rodriguez. In Double-A ball this season, the 21-year-old was 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA through 16 starts.

This deal was another great trade deadline acquisition for the Red Sox, as they took away one of the better pitching prospects in a division foes farm system.

Rodriguez might not be a top of the line prospect or starter, but he is another young arm the Red Sox could use in a  deal or as an arm out of the bullpen.

Miller will be missed, but it is only a two-month rental before he hits free agency. The 29-year-old will be looking to sign a long-term deal in the off season and the Red Sox will be just one of many teams in on the fire-baller after the season is over.

If Rodriguez can be used in a big trade during the off season, then this trade could be graded higher. However, with the 21-year-old’s struggles in the minors this season, the Orioles get the better end of this deal.

Grade: B-

Timeline of the Red Sox Roster Explosion

red sox

Just a few weeks ago, A.J. Pierzynski was behind the plate and a familiar cast of pitchers were taking the hill. Now, there is a whole new group going forward and Red Sox fans may not know exactly what to think. Let’s take a close look at just how everything unfolded and the recent changes to the Red Sox roster.

July 9th- A.J. Pierzynski designated for assignment

Pierzynski was always known for being disliked around the MLB and apparently the same feelings were felt in the Red Sox clubhouse. Christian Vazquez was brought up to take his place.

July 10th- July 21st- The Sox win 9 of 10 games

Once Pierzynski was released, the Sox went into the All-Star break with a bang and came out in the same fashion. The team that was starting to get counted out by some fans had turned things around. Some even thought that they could pull off some heroics and make another playoff run.

July 24th- Jon Lester contract talks halted

With everything hush-hush between Lester and the front office, Larry Lucchino confirmed that contract talks would be put aside until after the season. Meanwhile, the Red Sox lose their final three games to the Blue Jays and essentially nullify their hopes of a playoff hunt.

July 25th- Jon Lester makes final start with the Sox

Lester took the hill against David Price, one of the Sox newest foes, in a game that could have had some bad blood boil over. However, Price didn’t end up hitting Big Papi and Lester ended up going 6 innings allowing 2 runs on a Desmond Jennings home run. He struck out seven in what ended up being a no decision in a 6-4 Rays win.

July 26th- Jake Peavy traded to the Giants

Saturday morning, the Red Sox made their first trade by sending Jake Peavy to the Giants for pitching prospects Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar. Peavy was having a mediocre season with the Red Sox and it was time that some of the younger pitchers got an extended tryout in the rotation.

July 26th- Mike Carp requests a trade

Mike Carp, a valuable and productive bench player last season, really never got it going in 2014. Zero home runs, injuries, and sub par defense doesn’t earn you playing time. Carp clearly didn’t appreciate that fact though and you can’t blame a guy who wants to get off the bench of a last place team.

July 27th- Felix Doubront “wouldn’t mind a trade”

One day after Carp voices his displeasure, Doubront did the same. After pitching his way out of the rotation and finding himself with the mop-up job, Doubront let everyone know that he is a starter. The next day, Doubront came into the game trailing 5-0 and really gave the Sox fans a big middle finger. Two thirds of an inning, six runs, six hits, two walks. Thanks for your time Felix.

July 27th- Lester for Kemp?

Gordon Edes reported on Sunday afternoon that one possible trade for Lester could involve Matt Kemp as the centerpiece. The Dodgers love to wheel and deal, as we all know quite well, but is the oft-injured Kemp and his huge contract what the Sox need going forward?

July 28th- Lester and Lackey rumors intensify

Reporter Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Sox were being “hit hard on both Lester and Lackey from most contenders”. Lackey’s name had not been heard that much, but it was becoming more and more clear what the Red Sox were up to. Rosenthal later tweeted that the Sox were indeed open to trading both pitchers.

July 29th- Lester scratched from Wednesday’s start

After the Red Sox lost to the Blue Jays Tuesday night, the Red Sox announced that Lester would not be making his scheduled start on Wednesday. This basically proved that the rumors were true and that the Sox were shopping their ace. Any team looking for Lester would want him to start shortly after he joined the team, so one more start for the Red Sox would mean one less for his new team.

July 30th-Noon- Lackey to be dealt

Once again, Ken Rosenthal reported that there is a “very good chance” Lackey would be traded as well. Just a few hours later, it was reported that Lackey actually asked the front office to be traded. Carp and Doubront I can understand, but say it ain’t so John!

July 30th- 2 PM- Lester to the Orioles?

Word on the Twittersphere was that the Red Sox were close to dealing Lester within the division to Baltimore. That would certainly have been a tough pill to swallow for Sox fans!

July 30th- 3 PM- Doubront dealt to the Cubs

Theo Epstein got an old friend back from the Red Sox in Felix Doubront for a player to be named later. If we end up getting anything out of this deal, I’ll be surprised, but at this point it’s a win either way.

July 30th- 5 PM- Lackey scratched from Friday’s start

Just like Lester was scratched from his start, it was announced Lackey would be scratched from his scheduled start against the Yankees on Friday. Anthony Ranaudo will now make his MLB debut against our old buddy Chris Capuano.

July 31st- 9:45 AM- Lester traded to A’s

To many fans dismay, Jon Lester was officially traded to the Athletics along with fan favorite Jonny Gomes in exchange for the Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes is signed through next season, but is not eligible for a qualifying offer. It would make sense that the Sox would try and lock him up long term if they don’t want to include him in a separate deal.

July 31st- 12:45 PM- Lackey traded to Cardinals

The second big trade of the day came just before 1 PM, as the Sox parted ways with John Lackey. In return, veteran outfielder Allen Craig and 26-year-old right handed starter Joe Kelly were sent to the Sox. Could more plans be in the future considering the abundance of outfielders?

July 31st- 3 PM- Andrew Miller to the O’s

It was being reported that the Red Sox were very close to trading the lefty to Detroit, but once that fell apart, another suitor needed to be found. In return for Miller, who is having a career year, the Orioles sent back left handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, the number 3 prospect in their system.

July 31st- 3:45- Stephen Drew to the Yankees?!

Some were saying the Sox were done after they parted ways with Miller. No sir! Stephen Drew’s second stint with the Red Sox lasted just over two months before he was traded to the Yankees. That’s right, the Yankees did us a favor! They even threw in Kelly Johnson. I’m not sure if there’s a spot for him on the team, but this should mean Xander Bogaerts will be returning to shortstop.

Talk about a fire sale. A total makeover. The 2014 trade deadline has been the craziest one in the history of the Red Sox and that is no small feat. In just the past decade, the Sox have traded away Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez, two of the biggest faces of the team.

All in all, I am quite pleased with the returns the Red Sox received. It is hard to see Lester go, but with what had transpired, it became clear the Red Sox were not willing to pay him. I hope they prove me wrong and somehow bring him back in the off-season, but if he does well in Oakland, his asking price will go even higher. The offense increased dramatically and we have a chance to see some of the team’s pitching prospects. Expect a free agent signing or two in the offseason to bolster the rotation though.

Twitter has been full of “Clay Buchholz is going to be our ace next year?!?!” The Sox aren’t stupid. They know that they need proven pitchers if they are going to contend and I fully anticipate a solid rotation next year.

As for now, it should be interesting to see how the roster unfolds. There’s too many outfielders right now to make everyone happy, so what will happen with that situation? We may not be on our way to the World Series, but I am pretty excited looking at the last two months of the season.

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Relief Pitchers

Red Sox First Half

In the Red Sox first half, the bullpen has been pretty good despite a few pitchers who can’t seem to get it together. There were a few new faces added this offseason in Edward Mujica, Burke Badenhop, and the since-released Chris Capuano to go along with the core group from last year. Overall, the bullpen ERA sits at 3.10 which is good for tenth in the MLB and fifth in the AL.

Koji Uehara caught everyone by surprise last year with his lights-out second half of the year and playoffs, and he hasn’t been too far off this year. Although he has had a couple of blown saves, and has let up some late home runs in tie ballgames, he has kept his ERA to 1.65 before the break. The only AL closer who can top that is Toronto’s Casey Janssen who entered the break with a 1.23. There’s a small chance Koji could be dealt, but let’s hope the best closer in the AL sticks with the Red Sox.

Junichi Tazawa has been in the Sox bullpen for three years now and has been a reliable setup man in the past. With a 2.61 ERA and low WHIP to go along, Tazawa has fulfilled his expectations again this season. It was unsure what role he would have in the bullpen when Mujica was signed, but Tazawa has showed that his experience in the AL is an important factor.

Craig Breslow was coming off a career year and solid postseason, but is currently posting his worst year in a decade in the big leagues. The 33-year-old has a solid career ERA of 2.99, but that includes this season’s 5.18 he has posted in 34 games before the break. Breslow needs to get it together if he wants to continue to see time out of the bullpen.

With Breslow stumbling, Andrew Miller has done great in his lefty specialist role out of the pen. Although he had a stretch in May in which he lost four of six appearances, he has only allowed two runs in 16 outings since June. His 2.23 ERA at the break puts him only behind Uehara in the Sox bullpen and his 14.45 K/9 is by far the best on the team.

Burke Badenhop has been shaky as of late, but has been a solid option for John Farrell out of the bullpen all year. Allowing runs in three out of his last four outings before the break, his ERA has gone up from 1.62 to 2.93. He has only allowed one home run on the year though, which only he and Miller have done. Badenhop’s reliability has made him probably the best off season signing by the Red Sox.

Edward Mujica lost his job as closer for the Cardinals in the second half of last season and it has been all downhill since then. His two year contract already looks like a mistake and he is just another example of a NL pitcher who can’t handle the AL. In his first three years in the majors in Cleveland, he had a 6.04 ERA in 70 innings. In his five years in the NL, he had a 3.31 ERA. Now he’s back up to a 5.45 ERA in Boston. Is it a coincidence? Possibly, but I hope we don’t have to deal with this for another year and a half.

Chris Capuano was yet another lifetime national leaguer and he just couldn’t cut it for the Sox. He was never really that great in the NL to start with, but the signing was an odd choice to begin with. Capuano actually started out great, not allowing a run in 14.1 innings in April. However, 16 earned runs in 17.1 innings in May and June led to him being released. He hasn’t been picked up by another team to this point.

Koji Uehara- Grade: A-

Junichi Tazawa- Grade: B+

Craig Breslow- Grade: F

Andrew Miller- Grade: A-

Burke Badenhop- Grade: B

Edward Mujica- Grade: F

Chris Capuano- Grade: F 
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Quantity vs. Quality: The Red Sox Bullpen Problem with Lefties

Boston Red Sox Bullpen

Monday’s blowout loss to the Seattle Mariners served as an important reminder to the Boston Red Sox bullpen. While they have an abundance of left-handed relievers in there, the quality is low.

Chris Capuano, who is the rumored odd man out with Clay Buchholz returning, did not help his case to stay when he entered to relieve John Lackey in the 4th inning. The left-handed long relief man started his fifth outing of the month, playing an attempted bunt-hit off the bat of James Jones well to end the six-run 4th.

The 5th inning was a bit troublesome for Capuano as he allowed back-to-back hits to right field, which scored the Mariners’ eighth run of the contest.

Then, the southpaw retired the side in order in the bottom 6th, including striking out shortstop Brad Miller. Capuano struggled mightily in the month of June coming into the game. In 1 and 2/3 innings, he’d allowed five earned runs. The previous two months he only enabled opposing teams to score seven runs, and ended May with a stellar 1.95 ERA. So, obviously, this was a pivotal game for Capuano to prove his worth, and he did fine — well, that is, until the 7th inning.

It started with a James Jones ground-rule double and ended with a Logan Morrison home run, which was his second of the night. Capuano came out of the game allowing five earned runs, six hits, and inflating his ERA to a pedestrian 4.55. The 7th inning implosion most likely sealed his fate, and he could be gone within the week.

However, Capuano was not the only reliever, or left-hand reliever for that matter, who struggled Monday. Craig Breslow entered Monday with an underwhelming 4.18 ERA, but because of his track record, there was no indication that his future with Boston was in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, Breslow relieved Capuano after he failed to collect an out in the 7th. His outing began allowing a double to Mike Zunino, followed by a walk to Dustin Ackley. A fielder’s choice advanced runners to second and third while simultaneously getting the first out of the long 7th inning. Switch-hitting utility man Willie Bloomquist then struck out. With two outs in the inning, Breslow allowed his second walk to Cole Gillespie that loaded the bases. Luckily, he escaped it by inducing a ground ball off the bat of Jones. The 8th inning was much smoother, but was not without a blemish as Logan Morrision was walked, marking Breslow’s third in two innings.

Even Andrew Miller, the final of the three southpaws in the ‘pen, has choked in key spots this year. Though his 2.67 ERA is tremendous, his five losses are alarming.

The Boston Red Sox are very weak in this aspect of their team. Excuse me if I don’t believe moving Felix Doubront and his 5.19 ERA this year and career 7.76 ERA in 22 games out of the bullpen is the solution.

A Load of Bull: The Bullpen Needs to Step it Up

Bullpen

If only Andrew Miller’s command were as good as his beard

When Ben Cherington added Joel Hanrahan and Koji Uehara to the bullpen this offseason, it looked like he’d created a real strength for the team. Those two arms solidified a stable that already included Andrew Bailey, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller and Craig Breslow. The Sox pen was on track to be one of the best in the AL.

The Sox bullpen really should be good. Given the talent it’s stocked with, the pitching expertise of Juan Nieves and John Farrell, and the team-first attitude that’s helped bullpens in Baltimore and Tampa Bay, the Sox pen looks on paper to be an immovable object. Some of the numbers testify that it has been as much; Sox relievers have a 3.19 ERA, certainly a strong number. But the passable statistics belie a bullpen that has blinked in tough situations.

It’s impossible to talk about the bullpen’s struggles without noting the Sox’ 9th inning implosion. Joel Hanrahan doesn’t even deserve discussion, and although Andrew Bailey initially looked to be a decent replacement, he hit a snag when he blew a save against Tampa Bay and didn’t manage to recover before losing his job this past weekend. The absolute futility of Bailey’s pitching was pretty amazing, with the three-walk performance in Tampa and the instantaneous collapse in Detroit standing out. There’s nothing physically wrong with him, as far as we know. He just hasn’t been able to take the heat, folding completely under the pressure of a normal save situation.

Bailey isn’t the only one who hasn’t pitched the way he should. The Sox bullpen as a whole has underperformed its talent, with a pedestrian 11-10 record (the Yankees bullpen is 12-7). That’s ten times that the pen has let a game get away, not counting blown saves or games they couldn’t keep close. Take the infamous Nava-drop game in Detroit; yes, they were on the wrong end of a blown call, but instead of responding with confidence, they let the game slip away.

Closers aside, the pen has actually been pretty solid, but it could be much better. The continuing struggles in high-leverage situations, where good bullpens thrive, are a mystery. Many great closers struggle in non-save situations: they need to feed on the pressure. Sox relievers have been doing the opposite, letting the pressure eat them alive. For a good ‘pen, that’s a load of bull.